Protect the Great Lakes, prevent CWM expansion
The earthquake in Japan has shocked and saddened the world, and every day the news becomes worse. On the day that I am writing this letter, the danger of more explosions in nuclear plants and more release of deadly radiation increases.
We grieve for the Japanese people and for the environment there and are grateful that we are living in safer conditions here.
But are we? My insurance agent told me that we live in an earthquake-prone area. Most homeowner policies do not include compensation for damage from earthquakes. So I bought a rider for my policy so that if my home was destroyed or damaged by an earthquake, I could rebuild.
But there is no insurance policy that could cover the damage if an earthquake compromised CWM's waste dump containment and allowed toxic materials into the surface water. It could flow into Lake Ontario, and no amount of money could undo that damage.
Experts and company representatives will insist that such a calamity is impossible and that there are adequate safeguards and fail-safe procedures in place. The same experts used the same arguments in Japan, with devastating consequences.
Water is an increasingly valuable resource. Much of the world, including our own Midwest, is short of water. They want to pipe water from the Great Lakes to the West, but we defend our water against being taken from us. We are so fortunate to have 20 percent of the liquid fresh surface water of the planet here.
How insane can it be to bring toxic materials for burial in the watershed area of Lake Ontario? We have a special responsibility to be guardians of the Great Lakes. We cannot do anything about the wastes already buried here, but surely we will be prudent enough not to bring more.
If ever there was a time for the public to say, "No expansion of CWM!" this is the time.
State willing to gamble with needs of people
The governor's 2011-12 budget calls for the reduction and restructuring of Problem Gambling Services in New York State.
It appears as though the funding for these programs (approximately $2.4 million statewide) will be completely eliminated. If cutting resources for individuals struggling with a serious addiction isn't alarming enough, the governor is also calling for a significant expansion of New York gambling opportunities to generate at least $154 million in profits to minimize the state's budget deficit over the next year.
This shift in priorities would eliminate the limited services available to individuals suffering from problem gambling while simultaneously increasing accessibility to gambling opportunities. This equation creates an environment in which the number of people with a gambling problem will surely escalate.
According to the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, almost 1 million New Yorkers are currently dealing with a gambling problem. Results from the 2008 New York State OASAS School Survey indicated that approximately 48 percent of students in grades seven through 12 reported gambling over the previous year and that 20 percent of state youth already have, or are at risk for developing, a gambling problem.
Given the devastation that can be experienced by problem gamblers and their associated family members, it is incomprehensible to think that our state is planning to capitalize on such an illness. If the New York Lottery alone suspended advertising for just one week, their savings could fund current gambling services throughout the state for an entire year.
While we are all aware of the dismal economic outlook for this year's budget and the ever-increasing deficit facing our state, protecting the state's minimal investment in gambling services will save New York the much greater cost that compulsive gambling can have on our economy and society.
Now is the time to ask yourself how we as a state could willfully profit from individuals who are afflicted with a gambling illness. Would we do the same thing to our family members, friends or neighbors suffering from an illness such as cancer?
Please contact your local state representative to express your concern over this proposal.
If you or someone you know has a problem with gambling or is concerned that a problem may exist, remember that help is available. In Western New York, treatment services are available at the Gambling Recovery Program through Jewish Family Service in Buffalo. They can be reached at 883-1914. Gamblers Anonymous is also a support system that is available for anyone who is trying to stop gambling. The regional number is (888) 424-3577. Finally, New York State also has a gambling hotline. Please call 1-877-8-HOPENY.
Erica Boyce, gambling prevention specialist, Northpointe Council Inc.
(Editor's note: Northpointe Council Inc. is a nonprofit agency providing addiction services through prevention, intervention and treatment programs for individuals and families affected by alcohol, other drugs and problem gambling. Those interested in educational presentations related to underage and problem gambling, may call Boyce at 282-1228, Ext. 31)